Hurt in the Dirt

Hurt in the Dirt

Monday, March 28, 2011

So Cal NOT So Nice!

Another long road trip to California done! This time we went for the 2nd Pro XCT race of the year held in Fontana. I was definitely ready for some redemption after my performance at Bonelli Park. With my hip healing up well and my sniffing nose and cough all gone, I headed back to So Cal with certain expectations. Brandon and I jumped into the loaded Subaru after work on Thursday and began the long haul. We drove until late in the night and finally could go no further than lovely Barstow, CA! After oatmeal and a chai latte from the trusty Starbucks we trudged on through the misty rain that settled itself into the San Bernardino valley and finally reached our hotel in Ontario. Rotem and Adam had arrived the night before and we all joined up to head over for registration and pre-riding. Being the greenhorn, I had no idea what to expect from this race course or how it would handle the rain. Turns out the rain was a good thing, it made the dirt nearly perfect. I suited up and was ready to rid my legs of the 10 hour drive I had done the night before. Rotem, a great teammate and overall nice guy, offered to show me the ropes on the first lap. He warned me prior to our departure that the climbing started near the beginning of the loop and that it was steep. Boy, I sure did under estimate his definition of 'steep'! After about 5 minutes in, I was in my granny gear "warming up" on about a 20% grade. Rookie mistake #1 of the weekend!

Ok so right off the bat I know that this climb is going to be a giant cluster on the first lap and my position is going to be key. I put that in my mental file of "important things to remember for tomorrow's race". Once we got to the top of the monster climb the trail had a few little rollers followed by a long fun descent. I discovered by surprise that there were two short but very steep shots down sand covered rock that could turn into trouble if I wasn't paying attention. Point #2 for tomorrow's mental file. Other than that, the dirt was tacky and really fun. Thanks to Rotem pointing out a few better lines and the rain calming down a potentially sandy mess, I was feeling pretty excited for the race. I had carefully made the necessary mental notes and was stoked to have a good spot on the call up list. The start list was stacked with the usual "A-listers", but for this race I was more focused on my personal goals and less star-struck than at Bonelli. My nerves were already way more controlled and this course felt way more comfortable.

I slept like a baby and was feeling good on Saturday morning, ready for self redemption. Thankfully, breakfast went down much easier than 2 weeks ago at Bonelli. Amazing how much just getting one race under my belt helped the nerves. Call ups began and I was second row...much better than dead last like Bonelli! I couldn't help but smile, it seemed like so many things that just weren't quite right at the Bonelli race seemed to be great here in Fontana! This was going to be a good race day!

Start of Lap 1

The start whistle sounded and we were off. I held my position as best as I could remembering the 1st important point--position will be key on this first climb! Then, I made rookie mistake #2 of the weekend- I got behind the wrong wheel! Here we were on the first pitch of the long climb and I saw Carolyn and Sarah take an alternate line on the right side. For a split second I considered following but I stayed the course. Crap, wrong decision! I chose the line of girls who were rubbing tires ultimately causing all of us to clip out of our pedals and begin pushing our bikes! Ahhhh, how could I do this? This was one of the keys to my race, hold your position! As much as I told myself to "stay calm, its really early" I could feel my sense of urgency rise when I looked up to see the train of leaders nearing the top. I finally made it back on my bike and managed to climb a bit more only to get caught in traffic again. Erica Tingey and I had both gotten caught this time...2 rookies frantically scraping our way to the top. I couldn't help but laugh after the race when Sarah, Erica, and I sat around recapping our races and Erica jokingly had to remind herself during a suffer-fest that this was no I-Cup race!  Once again, I got a big fat 'welcome to the pros' reminder! We finally got to the top and got to breathe for 2 seconds while we enjoyed some fast flowy descents. Somewhere during the second lap I realized that my shifting was off a bit. It got worse and worse and by the time I got to the descent on the third lap, the shifter for my rear derailleur was able spin a 360 without changing gears-meaning I had 2 gears--Hard and hardest! Rookie mistake #3 of the weekend: Know your equipment and make sure it all works! All the things that had been going well at the beginning of the race had done a 180 and now not much was going right. Problem was, the things that were going wrong, were mostly self-inflicted! I jumped off my bike once I hit the feed/tech zone. Brandon looked at me in dismay. "What?" he blurted out! "I have no shifting. Do you have a tool?" I yelled back! I stood there hoping that from the time I left him at the start til now, he had underwent some transformation from supportive husband to super mechanic! No such luck, even the couple of mechanics who had stuck around the pit had no idea how to fix the problem. We did a run though of all the things we did know how but we could only get the derailleur to move up by a gear or two. There was NO WAY I could climb that hill for the 4th time in that hard of gear. I had to granny it the time before. A race official approached and asked what my status was. I looked at Brandon who was just as disappointed as I. "I'm out, I guess" was the only thing I could say.

Seriously! I had never experienced this in my 3 years of riding...not being able to finish due to crashing, mechanicals, or just plain being lapped by faster riders. We fortunately ran into a friend of ours in one of the team tents, who after tinkering with my bike for a few minutes figured out what had gone wrong. I simple screw had come loose. I DNF'd for a screw-I'm so stupid! He tried to make me feel better by saying that he had never seen this and we wouldn't have known how to fix it anyway. I thanked him and made my way to the car. Disappointment and discouragement! No other way to put it! I shed a few tears, took some deep breaths, and took in the encouraging words from my friends Sarah and Erica. Ok, I've had my crash and mechanical for the year! What I really needed was to finish a race-outright.

Sunday came along and my legs felt pretty fresh considering I only did 3 laps the day before. Goal for the day: finish the race! No mechanicals, no crashes, and don't get pulled! Just finish and not in last place.  I had challenge ahead of me once again starting in last place due to my DNF the day before, and on a course with little room to reposition yourself. But, mission accomplished. I did finish and not in last place. Though not a stellar performace, I finished. I'm officially 0 for 2 on finishing XCO races and 1 for two on short track. I have 3 weeks until Sea Otter, the next Pro XCT. I have a lot of work to do until then. I have to get faster, figure out how to turn off my pain receptors in my legs, and get back to being comfortable on my bike! In the meantime, I'll race the second I-Cup race in Hurricane. I'm hoping it will be a little like comfort food! A comfortable place and the friends with whom I learned to race.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Looking Back but Focused Forward

I've been looking back at the Pro XCT #1 race after having a couple days to digest the whole experience. I must say after reading Jason's post on the Team Jamis website (see link on the left) about the weekend, I couldn't have said it myself. So instead of trying, I'll steal a few of his lines that wrap it up perfectly. 

"Every race is a priority. Not every race can be a top goal but there are no throwaways when it comes to expectations and desire to perform, to push yourself, and to achieve.
So whether its your first pro race ever (for new recruit Kelsy), first XC with a new team (Ben), a wake up call that you’re getting old (Sager) or simply your first XC of the year in your new national champ kit (Rotem) expectations are high. When you don’t meet them – be it from a paper results stand point, or from a personal desire to push yourself – there’s a let down. Not a loss of momentum, but just not the instant feedback we all want as products of modern instant satisfaction.Because no matter how you end up, on paper or within your own journey, its hard work out there."  - Jason Sager    Thanks Jason! 
Start of the Bonelli short track race

Furthermore, on Sunday while preparing for the short track race I received a text from my dad (who has just discovered the text message!). I was once again a ball of nerves and still had a little hangover of disappointment from the previous day's result, but parents are really good at keeping things in perspective. His text simply read: "Eat up everything you are experiencing. Success is sometimes just doing it while giving your best". Just like his subtle messages given in the past, he once again reminded me that the journey is far more meaningful than the destination. This is something I try to hold close to my heart for my life in general, so much that I had a symbol inked on my body for a daily reminder. But as mentioned in the last post, as Brandon's loyal support is sometimes taken for granted while things are easy, the details of achievement (AKA the destination) sometime steal the focus of the big picture.
I guess the simplest result of all this deep thinking comes down to this: I didn't meet my expectations in the XC race, I did better than expected in the super D, and I crashed out of the short track race. My first pro races are under my belt, I learned multiple things in each race, and I'm doing the best I can with my current situation. But I'm not lowering the bar when it comes to personal expectations and therefore need to continue to improve my fitness and bike handling skills to acquire that coveted paper result and at the same time remember keep my focus toward the next race without forgetting to take a look around to appreciate the scenery!
Nurses Jason and Brandon cleaning up my new battle wound!

Short tack wound, Day 2

Saturday, March 12, 2011

And That's How the Pros Roll!

Well, its all said and done. I've completed my first race as a pro! Wow! I hate to sound like an amatuer (ha ha) but I am blown away by the pace of the podium racers. I get it, they get paid to ride their bikes, don't have school 5 days a week, and have all been pros as long as I've been racing. However, these girls have some amazing legs and lungs!

The trip started on Thursday as we lolly-gagged our way to Hurricane and stopped for a quick spin in the JEM trail. This was the maiden voyage on a Jamis bike! I was stoked after the bike worked well and my legs felt pretty good. But, all to soon it was back to the van to finish the drive. On Friday we slept in and eventually rolled up to the venue for registration and pre-riding. You know you are a rookie when you get butterflies in your belly just showing up to the venue! After a short stint working on wheel-brake alignment, it was chamios-time and were off to test our legs on the course. After one lap on the short 5K loop I knew I was in for some pain! This course was world cup style- in a city park with short steep climbs and descents, and not a single flat section! Just a bunch of 1-2 minute interval hills. Not my style of riding...especially in March...for my first race! Before I knew it the sun was setting and my days of counting down were over, the long awaited day was upon us.

Saturday morning at 5 am I was wide awake and pumped with adrenaline. I forced myself to stay in bed until 7:15 and could no longer take it so I went downstairs for some breakfast. When we arrived at the venue I was pretty sure I hadn't eaten butterflies for breakfast though my belly begged to differ. I suited up and off to warm-up. The women's field was small, only about 20 of us. However, there were some big names with impressive resumes so I have to admit I was a little star-struck. Call ups began-my name was announced DEAD LAST! Welcome to the pros baby! I glanced down at my heart rate monitor to see that my nerves really were as bad as I thought. My heart was running at a cool 100 beats per minute, more than double my resting rate! Crap, I'm standing here waiting to go with a jacked heart rate and feeling like I'm going to pee in my chamios. The whistle sounded and finally the moment of truth had arrived. The pace was quick right from the start and my legs were burning after the first lap. With three laps to go I was blown, just hanging on for dear life. The course was really hard to find any flow because I was either throttled to the max or descending. With 1 1/2 laps to go I could hear the lead moto closing in - AKA I was about to get lapped! When I had about 1/8 of a mile left I turned around to see Georgia Gould. I had a decision to make 1) Sprint ahead and get to the start/finish ahead of her to suffer through the last lap or 2) step aside and let the champion pass for her celebratory finish and essentially get pulled from the race. I went for #2. I was blown and I still had super D and short track waiting for me. It was really nice when I returned to the team van with my head down and tail between my legs to have Brandon there with open arms just as supportive and proud as any other race. It's something I don't always appreciate when I win, but was essential today.

I sucked down a much needed recovery drink and chowed down some food just in time for the pro men start. Three of my teammates were racing and I was wanted to sit in the feed zone to watch and rest up for super D. The longer I sat in the warm claming sun the less I wanted to suit up for super D. I had already suffered through my first XC race and now I had no idea what to expect from my first super D course. I reminded myself that it would be 10 minutes or less of suffering and then I could go to bed! Sarah Kaufmann and I sat atop the start laughing and chatting which helped calm my nerves. Honestly, I think I was less nervous simply because I was too tired to be. Anyway super D went well. There were fewer girls since only about half of our field showed up. I pushed through the short but hilly course as fast as my legs would allow and I finished with a smile on my face. It was a LONG day and we were all ready for it to end as we packed up the van and headed off to the hotel for a long awaited shower and dinner. On the drive home Sarah called and informed me that I had taken 5th place in the Super D race. Not too bad. It was nice to end the day with some good news.

All in all I had a great experience. I am a little disapointed by the XC result but its early season, it was my first pro race, and I made it out alive! I learned a lot from this race. But maybe most importantly, the fire is now buring strong to get back to training as to progress out of early season shape and into mid-season shape. Thanks for all the texts and calls before and after the race. I'm am truely lucky to have such great family and friends.
Yes, I'm in the granny gear! Jason has already provided a lecture in response to my wimpy-ness!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Brandon, can you pass the Dayquil?

Its been a steady diet of Dayquil/Nyquil over the past few days in the Bingham household.  Had I purchased a large chunk of stock in Vicks prior to the both of us being sick I'm pretty sure I'd own half the company by now. I think we're on the third box of Dayquil and second box of Nyquil and still going strong. Brandon and I are a sorry sight with our continuous symphony of sniffles, sneezes, coughs, and nose blowing. We've each taken a turn spending the night in the extra bedroom trying to be considerate for the other person, realizing that coughing or blowing your nose repeatedly cannot be achieved quietly - no matter how hard you try!

My morning dose of vitamins and cough meds!

I have been sick a ridiculous amount of times since Halloween. For the past couple of months I have been racking my brain trying to figure out why, for the love, have I been sick so many damn times? Honestly! I went years, yes years, without so much as a sniffle. Now I have been getting sick once a month for like 5 months straight. Well, I think I figured it out.

You see my life was pretty stress free up until starting PA school. Everyday I went to work at a simple, stress-free job and rode my bike when I felt like it, took naps- easy peasy! Then things changed when I tossed that carefree life aside for PA school. The first year of PA school I was a mess. Apparently I thought it would be a good idea to take cycling a little more serious at the same time I was going to change careers...for the record, not a good idea! Plus, I had a 2-hour round trip commute to SLC 5 days a week so that I could sit in a classroom for 8 hours a day AND I was a bit remorseful that I had thrown away a career that provided a perfectly good paycheck. Long story short, I cried...a lot! Brandon had seen me shed but a few tears in our five or so years together, so this came a quite a shock to him. However I'm convinced that all my crying was an outlet, although not the best, never the less an outlet for all that "stuff"! I never got sick that first year of school. As my first three semesters quickly passed I adjusted, learned to use the bike a little more as my outlet, and transitioned from the classroom to the clinical setting. I thought I was off the hook, smooth sailing, no more tears of stress- right? Well, this meant long hours in the clinics and hospitals, a masters project, and squeezing in just enough training to upgrade to pro! Well since then, there have been no tears, instead lots of coughs and colds! Damn! I guess the tears were good? I can't bring myself to reverting back in order to test the theory, crying is just not my style. However I'm at the breaking point. If I get sick one more time...I swear, I just might have to have myself a good cry! I willing to try just about anything.

On a more positive note (geez, I'm such a downer today!) Bonelli Park is this weekend. Brandon and I plan on packing up with Jason Sager in the Jamis team van and road trippin' it to California. Sunshine here we come! Not to brag, but the forecast is temps in the 70's and all sun! I can't wait to get out of the winter! Even if it is only for a few days. So, I'll continue to worship the sun and bike gods if my friends will send "get better" vibes in the direction of the Bingham house! Hopefully in conjunction we can put together a successful weekend.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

From Countdown to Countdown

What do you do when Ogden gets a monster dump and you can't go South to pedal the ski of course! And that's just what we did this past weekend. On Sunday we had a bluebird day, lots of good friends, my madre, and even some leftover powder turns! After a whole day of tele-turns with a bunch of snowboarders, my legs were screaming. Especially after a bunch of squats at Bomber Athlete the day before! While my legs enjoyed the burn of bottomless snow, my soul enjoyed the sunshine and fresh air, and my brain enjoyed the break from life's stressful countdowns.

Powder Mountain Freshies

I have so many countdowns to important dates, I'm not sure how I keep them all straight! I have a countdown to my last day of PA school in August, graduation day in May (I know its weird we graduate in May with the entire school of medicine but our program isn't officially done until August!), my first race in March, and so on! But good news, I now have one less countdown. On Tuesday, March 1st I presented my masters project... and that my friends was a huge milestone in the grand scheme of PA school. I was very studious and stayed on task through the whole project, but I could never shake the anxiety that surrounded it. And even though I had a lot of other countdowns pending, the masters project took up all my energy and focus. Now that its over and done with I'm trying to take a deep breath and take in this amazing feeling of accomplishment! However, there is one problem...the next countdown date is fast approaching. In the angst of the last couple of weeks I sort of stopped looking beyond Tuesday March 1st. Well now its March 2nd and the next important date I'm counting down to is March 12th, Bonelli Park. AKA my first race of the season, AKA my first race as a true mountain bike pro, and AKA my first Pro XCT race. Oh hell, that's a lot of firsts! So just when I felt like I was making some headway with school and the anxiety was dropping to a manageable level, I realize that actually the stress was simply transferred from one thing to another.

Oddly, I think that I'll be more nervous for the race at Bonelli Park than I was for my masters presentation. Maybe because I knew deep down that I worked hard on and was prepared for my presentation, and I was going to be in a familiar setting, in front of familiar faces. Bonelli on the other hand in unfamiliar in every aspect. From the race course to pro race scene to the competition, its ALL new! I took a look at the start list today...lets just say my nerves are very reasonable. Not to mention I'm racing for a new team packed with successful racers and I'll be on a new bike. Whew--I'm going to be shakin' in my chamois at the start line!

Brandon tells me I'm a "glass half empty" kind of girl. Well he is definitely a "glass half full" kind of guy. Thank goodness! He is always positive when I second guess my ability to compete at the next level. I'm so glad he'll be there to calm my nerves, just like he does before every race. I guess until March 12th I'll do my best to scorch the stress by focusing on training (the one thing I can control) and leave the pep talks to Brandon. Oh, and I guess I could pass some time breaking in my sweet new shoes and pedals!

Thanks to Garneau

Gotta love the Crank Bros.